Common Dental Questions and Concerns

So you say it’s time for a cleaning?

Your veterinarian just told you that it is time for a cleaning, but now you have some questions and concerns.

Dr. Fisher’s Dental FAQs

1. But there is just a little bit of tartar.
We are more concerned with the amount of gingivitis (redness) of the gums than the amount of tartar. Gingivitis is reversible (can return to normal), if it’s left to progress it will turn into periodontal disease. This is non-reversible (cannot be returned to normal). The best time to treat dental disease is before periodontal disease is present.
85% of pets have periodontal disease by 3 years of age.

2. My other dogs never had a cleaning and they did fine.
As we learn more about the health of our pets we also become better at providing optimal care for them. Dental health is progressing and becoming more of an integral part of their health care.
Smaller breed dogs and brachycephalic breeds (short nosed such as pugs) are more prone to developing dental disease earlier. Also, just as in people, some pets will have more dental disease than others.
Dental disease does not only affect the teeth but also the vital organs and the pet as a whole. It is amazing how dogs and cats respond after a painful mouth has been addressed.

3. I am scared of anesthetizing my pet- can’t we do it while he/she is awake?
There are some places that offer non anesthetic dental cleanings. It is important to know that this is not equivalent to true dental cleanings and evaluations and treatment.
Periodontal disease is a hidden disease. Without anesthesia it is impossible to fully evaluate the mouth. If you do not find it- or are unable to treat it- you are not at the root of the problem.

4. But my pet is too old.
It may be true that your pet is older but age in itself is not a disease. There are going to be certain tests that we are going to want to run to make sure that he/she is going to be safe under anesthesia. We also will monitor him/her closely throughout the procedure to make sure that they continue to do well. Adjustments to the protocol will be made as needed to accommodate your pet.
The most important thing with our older pets is that they are comfortable- having a diseased mouth does not fit into this picture.

5. He is still eating fine- How can it be painful?
It is very rare for dogs to stop eating because of dental disease. This however, does not mean that it is not painful. Dental disease can be very painful for dogs. Imagine yourself if you had a root abscess or an infection how it would feel. Some dogs go to avoiding chewing in certain spots of their mouth or will swallow their food without chewing it.
In the wild pain is seen as weakness. It appears that in this are dogs have very high tolerance for pain. Eating is also needed for survival and many will eat through the pain. Removing the source of the pain is going to make everybody more comfortable.

6. What is involved in a cleaning?
After your pet is anesthetized-
Dental radiographs are taken of the tooth and roots.
Visible tartar is removed with instruments.
More delicate tartar deposits are removed from the gum line with different instruments.
Periodontal sockets are probed and measured to assess periodontal disease.
The roots are planned, (meaning tartar is scraped from below the gum line) until the roots are smooth again.
The enamel is polished to remove any unevenness left by tartar removal.
The mouth is disinfected and treated with a fluoride sealer or plaque repellent.
Professional notes are taken on a dental chart, noting abnormalities on each of the dog’s 42 teeth, or the cat’s 30 teeth.
You are called with the information and given a detailed plan if further recommendations are needed.

7. Can’t I just brush his teeth at home?
Home dental care including brushing the teeth, oravet, dental chews and breathalyzer will all help. However, once it has progressed to this extent no amount of brushing is going to remove the tartar that has accumulated.
Once a cleaning has been performed all these things can be done to prevent further problems and to increase the time between dental cleanings.

8. Is it really necessary?
The dental health of your pet is very important not only the comfort of your dog/cat but also to his/her health.
The bacteria that collect in the tartar and in the diseased teeth can affect the heart, liver and kidneys.
9. He just had a cleaning not long ago- why do I need to clean again?
We recommend dental cleanings and evaluations based on what we see and not the amount of time since the last cleaning. Some dogs/cats will require more frequent cleanings than others. It is also sometimes necessary to monitor the progress of findings from one dental on regular bases (such as every 6 months) to catch problems as quickly as possible.
10. What can I do at home to prevent this from re-occurring?
Once a dental cleaning has been performed there are some things that can be done at home to delay or prolong the time before the next dental cleaning.
Brushing the teeth on a daily basis is the best thing that you can do to prevent buildup of plaque. For many pet owners that just is not feasible. We offer oravet- this is a plaque prevention gel that is applied weekly. We also offer breathalyzer and CET chews.
11. I’m afraid it’s going to be expensive.
The full extent of the dental disease is not going to be known until the pet has been sedated, radiographs have been taken and the teeth have been probed. You will be called once this has been done to be updated on the findings and the treatment plan will be discussed.
Waiting to have the teeth cleaned will only lead to further disease, pain and higher dental bills.
We do offer payment options using care credit or health credit card. Please ask us if you would like further information about these options. These need to be set up ahead of time.

12. I can get it less expensively elsewhere- why should I get his teeth cleaned here?
When comparing prices it is important to compare the quality and the services provided. We include full mouth oral radiographs with all our cleanings. This is the only way to fully evaluate the oral cavity. All our patients are fully monitored during anesthesia by our technicians and with our monitoring equipment (EKG, blood pressure, O2 monitor, apnea monitor, end tidal CO2 etc.). The pets are maintained on a warm water blanket and have a bear hugger (warm air) over them to maintain body temperature.
We will never proceed with any further treatment or additional costs before consulting with you. You will never be forced into any further treatment and your questions and concerns will be addressed during the entire process.

13. How long is it going to “last”?
This is a tough question to answer. It depends on the individual animal- smaller dogs have a tendency to build up tartar more rapidly than large dogs. Also the amount of home care that is done will help “spread out” the cleanings. Some dogs can go several years between, while others may require them as often as every 6 months.

14. If he needs extraction how will he be able to eat?
Dogs and cats can eat normally with all their teeth missing. After extractions a canned (soft diet) may be recommended for 3-5 days until the areas have had a chance to heal.

These are just some of the most common questions that our clients have. Feel free to ask your one of our technicians or doctors here at Cape Coral Pet Vet if you have further questions or concerns.

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